Both of us (my wife and I) were up all the proceeding night tending to our little guy, Nick. He was coming down with a cold and was up quite a bit throughout the night, coughing and whining. At 5am I could no longer sleep, so I got up, watched some TV, and gathered the very few couple of items I needed to have ready for departure in 1.5 hours.
Bored, I grabbed a blanket and fell asleep on the couch watching ESPN. At 6:30 my wife rushes in. "TONY! It's 6:30!!" (I had told her the previous night I wanted to leave the house about 6:40 in order to get there around 7am for check-in.)
I hazily awoke and calmly said "Oh. Okay." (still not really comprehending what time it really was and what it meant to me.) Then I whipped open the blanket to display to my wife that I was dressed in full kit ready to go. I threw the gathered items in the truck, smoked a piece of bread with peanut butter, mounted the rack with bike and we were out in about 15 minutes. We laughed about the whole scenario, how I was dressed and ready, on the way there.
I hadn't missed much getting there a little late. In fact, the few people I knew would be there hadn't left yet. I rolled out with Dennis Hamel, his daughter Katie, a friend of Dennis', Robin, and newcomer Dave. There were about 50 participants in all.
Day One is always the worst regardless of weather because of the constant slight increase in elevation, but also usually a headwind. The weather this year wouldn't exactly be doing us any favors either. It was a brisk 40 degrees or so at start time and we battled a headwind probably within a few hours from the start. Most of Day One is all incline. Long, steady ones...for miles on end. It's only maybe 1.5-3% grade at times, but it is painful. It rained (misted/sprinkled) on and off all day - about every hour. Not really seeing the sun much. At one point, reaching Reed City, we heard the tornado sirens going off. They went for a long time, but must have just been a test, because this wasn't tornado weather.
All in all, not a bad day. I rode almost the entire way with new guy Dave. Turns out he's in a related field to mine, so we had some good things to talk about. He was riding a 1986 (I think he said) Trek 1000 road bike. One of only a very few to brave the paved/unpaved rail trail on a road bike. It was nice company to have around and he rode really well on that thing.
We stayed in Cadillac at Maguires Resort. Not much of a "resort" really. After a brief dinner with some other riders, Dave, Dennis' and his family, my daughter and I found the pool/hot tub, relaxed a bit, then went back to the room. We were all in bed by 9:30.
The colors were brilliant this year. The best I've ever seen. In some sections, leaves covered the entire trail, making it hard to tell if you were acutually on the trail or off the shoulder.
Dennis changing a flat.
Dennis snapped this pic of me near Cadillac.
Two in my cycling fan club.
Day Two: the return trip.
At 1am I wake up. Legs throbbing, aching. The tendons behind my knees feel brittle and ready to snap. I'm wide awake, ready to ride. I know it's going to be painful, but lets get the show on the road. I'm going through my mental checklist of things to bring/pack for our return trip. I knew it would be colder than Saturday am (it's always at least 10 degrees colder), but I didn't really think it would be SNOWING, which is what I saw when I walked outside around 6:30 am to get some breakfast and mount up. Damp. Cold. No breeze, but wet and lightly snowing. Friggin' snow for crying out loud!
When we departed the hotel, it didn't seem all that cold - I was expecting worse actually. The thing that wasn't going to be nice though, was the fact that we were getting absolutely soaked by the wet roads/trail that by the time we reached our first stop in LeRoy, we were freezing.
We kept our stops to a bare minimum in order to keep warm, even though we were soaked and sweaty. There was basically no wind, which was nice and the sun seemed to want to come through the clouds. By afternoon we had quite a nice day of riding under our belts. The last rest stop on Day Two, Howard City, always seems to be the worst. You are at the point where want the trip to be over quick, but you have another 15 miles or so of gravel to work through before you hit glorious pavement again. As we were leaving, we noticed the dark cloud rolling in. Figuring it was no worse than the rain we survived on Day One, we took to the trail. It soon began to SLEET. Tiny ice balls were shooting right through my helmet vents and were hitting my skull. We spent the next 5-10 minutes riding with our heads tilted to the side trying to protect our faces. My arms were covered with ice when it finally all ended. So all over again, we were wet and cold, but we continued on.
We had given the last of what we had making the climb up over the pedestrian bridge at West River Drive - Dave and I racing to the top. We were exhausted. So exhausted that I thought I would be Mr Funny Guy and do a power slide on my way in parking lot at the finish, which was successful, but then I failed to clip out upon stopping and fell right over in front of about a dozen people. I just laughed and lay there in the dirt - pinned under my bike. A few helped me up. I was so tired. Patti sat in the truck and watched the whole incident go down and didn't do a thing. Maybe hoping I would not see her and get a ride home with someone else. HA
Dave and I rode together for all of Day Two as well. I hope to ride with him again, he seemed interested in our club, so maybe he'll become a new member.
Not a bad trip. I don't understand how most of the return trip is "downhill", but I only manage to pick up a few minutes from Day One. Maybe fatigue has something to do with it? My legs are in a lot of pain right now, and my cold is coming back. Had to leave work early today in order to try and get some more rest. Hope I can clear my system of these pains, I have more training to do for Iceman, which I'm predicting will be a cold one this year.
But hey, how much worse can it get than October snow and sleet!?
Again, the colors were outstanding! This is just before Big Rapids on our return trip.
(Almost) a broken chain 15 miles from the finish.
Replaced quickly with a QuickLink and we were back on the road.
Dave's Trek road bike collected a lot of trail debris. Pretty impressive.